Quick – Where’s the first place you go when you need help with a product? Google, right? Why are companies’ customer success content, training materials and documentation always so poorly optimized for search engines? It’s a horrible experience for your customers! Here are eight ways to optimize for search engines.
Before we dive into to these eight proven techniques you might ask: Why does this matter? Simple. Your customers are definitely using search engines to find answers to their questions about your products. So too are your buyers. If you’re still using PDF files (perhaps because the 1990s were so awesome that you want to return to that era), and a knowledge base technology from 10-15 years ago, you can be sure your customers and prospects are finding your competition’s content and not yours. It is 2014 and if you want to be competitive, you must be publishing to a web-native format and this content needs search engine optimization (SEO).
“Wait, all our customer success is behind a login because it’s competition sensitive.” Huge mistake. Immediately make parts of this public and use conditional content to hide competition sensitive information from anonymous users.
Finally, let me be real with you a moment, your competition is doing this. If they aren’t, this is a great way for you to get ahead of them. Bottom line, your marketing, sales and support team will thank you for executing on this article. It will increase organic site traffic with potential buyers (as much as 50% in 4 months has been reported) and this will dramatically lower your Customer Effort Scores, which positively impact Net Promoter Score. You’ll also feel like a superhero.
Step Into Your Customers’ Shoes
If you haven’t already, you can test how well-optimized your help center is for SEO. It’s a fairly simple exercise, but can have extremely far-reaching implications that can impact your ability to close and retain customers. To start, you could talk to your support team and make a list of common questions that your customers would usually ask. Then, input different queries through Google, Bing, or Yahoo and see what results pop up. If you are not directed to the correct page, your business may be losing customers.
There’s a new Customer Success Tactics group on LinkedIn that’s still in its early stages, but has the potential to deliver a lot of value to businesses. If you want to stay one step ahead of your competitors and get the latest industry tips and tricks, you should join now.
8 SEO Tactics To Drive Customer Success
MindTouch is a SaaS organization that has a phenomenal track record with helping businesses (including Intuit, Paypal, MakerBot, and Code42) deliver SEO-friendly self-help options. Whether or not you use the MindTouch solution, we are great at SEO and would like to share some of our best practices to help you drive customer success and increase organic site traffic.
1. Human Readable URLs – These are exactly what the name states: human readable and search engines love them. You want clean, simple URLs with keywords to increase your search rankings and place more authority on your content. MindTouch is the only vendor that optimizes this way specifically for Help Centers.
- The Good: http://success.mindtouch.com/Documentation/Integration/Single_Sign_On/
Yes, this article is about integrations and single sign on. No surprises.
- The Bad: https://help.salesforce.com/HTViewSolution?id=000133732&language=en_US
Uhh..what’s this about?
- The Ugly: http://www.fuzeqna.com/careerbuilder/ext/kbsearch.aspx#ctl00_phMaster_phMain_KBSearch_repSearchResults_ctl00_lnkQuestion
Ouch! Note: this company’s name and web domain is CareerBuilder.com. They aren’t even using their own company domain!
2. XML SiteMap – Provide a map of the site in a format that search engines can ingest. This is the best way to make sure that all your content is crawled, indexed and the most up to date version is captured in the search engine. Also, this provides a means of standardizing and controlling all search engines’ description of your page on the search engine results page (SERP). In short, you’ve got to have an XML SiteMap that conforms with the search engine standards with correct information captured. For example, a description you define rather than a randomly generated one by the search engine, or metadata (more on this in a moment). For MindTouch customers, this is auto-generated and auto-updated in real-time using your Overview section as the description. Tags become meta tags…etc. As a bonus, MindTouch provides an OpenSearch endpoint.
3. No Broken Links – Broken links frustrate customers and hurt your SEO ranking. 404 errors are very very bad for your domain authority. What happens when you revise your docs? or rename content? You’ve got to 301 redirect these URLs or you are hurting your entire company’s domain authority and potentially damaging the organic site traffic, undoing the marketing team’s good work and hurting sales. Also, you’re irritating your customers by lowering your Customer Effort Scores. MindTouchers, don’t worry. All move and rename operations automatically creates the correct 301 redirects. Links are unbreakable in MindTouch.
4. Correct Use of Meta and Alt Tags for Media – By using Meta and Alt Tags correctly, you improve visibility for your site and content, make it easier for users to discover, and make it easier for web crawlers to find. MindTouchers, this too is automated for you as mentioned in #2 XML Sitemap.
5. Content Reuse for Keyword Placement – Be smart about your keyword placement. Be sure these are included in the overview section so they show up in your meta description. Also, place keywords near the top. To make it easier, try to reuse content so managing these are easier. Include a diverse group of authors. This is a proven technique to making sure you’re hitting the correct keywords. Also, look at Search in your Knowledge Analytics. This will help you identify keywords you may not have known users were using. Maybe they have a different vocabulary. You can correct this by creating Search Recommendations.
6. Proper use of nofollow tags – In general, people use nofollow tags for paid links, comments, user-generated content, embeds, and others to prevent Search Engines from crawling links that go to bad, un-related sites. The fewer links you have in your content, the more value these links have for search engines. Don’t waste your link juice on internal links that are navigational and irrelevant. MindTouchers, we have you covered on this one too.
7. High Quality Social Links with Social Sharing – This makes it easy for interested followers to share content and back-link to your site. Increasingly social shares are impacting search rankings. With MindTouch you have the option of turning on or off the social sharing buttons, but it is recommended that you leave them on for SEO purposes. With this in mind, be sure to create best practices content for your users. This tends to get shared more.
8. Link and Cluster Pages by Topic / Landing Pages – Strategically link pages about “Customer Success” to other pages about “Customer Success”. This strategic clustering of knowledge makes it easy, not just for web crawlers to find information, but for users to search and find the answers to their questions. Related articles are optimized for this and further improved by dynamically adapting to the search and browsing behavior of end users.
If your company is not optimizing your Help Center for SEO, you are losing an opportunity to promote your brand, drive traffic to your site, and increase revenue. Your customers will love you if you make it easy for them to find the information that they need. Whether you’re using MindTouch or not, you should reevaluate your SEO strategy to stop losing customers and stay one step ahead of your competitors. Learn more about how MindTouch addresses this important challenge by reading “SEO Best Practices and MindTouch“.